Where in Pakistan do you get a chance to live amongst the clouds? Illustrious investment banker turned entrepreneur Aalia Bux opens up her home to the media for the first time, talks about her new interior design venture SPACES, and explains how focus on strategic collaboration with clients is rapidly becoming a game changer in Pakistan’s saturated interior design market.
It is October and the bright post-monsoon sunlight highlights the stunning view across the horizon at Karachi Creek. We are in the high rise apartment home of Aalia Bux, a place that – simply put – not only complements but transcends its environment. “If you want to know my inspiration and see my design ethic, see my home” Aalia says of her approach to designing interiors. “And by the way” she adds, “here at SPACES, we no longer talk about interior design, we talk about creating strategies…aesthetic strategies… which is changing the conversation about how to work with clients on interior projects.”
Walking into her apartment, we see the strategy at play in the effortless beauty of her living room, a symphony of earth tones that is inspired by the “dry dusty and startlingly beautiful city that is Karachi”. Combined with black leather and stainless steel accessories, the living area is a picture perfect example of contemporary design. “I chose contemporary and pared down interiors because I always like it clean and simple. My home is not supposed to be loud. The life I live is what is supposed to be loud (Alex DeLeon).” Despite being an art lover, Aalia chose to distribute her works of art, which included the family collection of Sadeqains and selected works of Australian artists, to her children. In their place, she has an eclectic selection of wall murals including one ironically titled “Under Pressure”.
Contemporary themes extend to the other rooms in the home, too, with overlays of classic and European styles. “The master bedroom is Florentine, the guest room Parisian.” A stunning Italian four-poster bed in chrome holds pride of place in the master bedroom, looking like a piece of jewellery within black and white surrounds. The atmosphere is at once calm, serene and otherworldly. “People coming into my bedroom have told me it feels like I’m living in the clouds. That was my aim and that was my strategy.”
So how did an international award winning financial specialist go from Investment Banking to Interior Design? “Ever since I can remember, whenever I walked into a new home my mind would start re-arranging walls and furniture into new and interesting configurations” Aalia pauses, then adds with a laugh, “I could remember people’s interior layouts better than I could remember their names!”. Flexibility, a passion for learning and an ability to think out of the box has brought Aalia to where she is today. “I believe it is my creative side that helped me excel in finance. Now, I am applying my corporate and strategic skills to the design process in order to enhance the client’s experience and create truly unique outcomes.”
SPACES Design Studio began 2 years ago as an adjunct to associated family company Buildpro, providing design, supply and installation services for high-end, fully fitted-out designer bathrooms. Spaces completed 15 projects within the first 18 months of business, and services rapidly expanded into space planning, flooring, wall coverings and panelling, bespoke walk-in wardrobes, balconies, and lobbies. “For retail clients, I specialize in design solutions for interior architecture, we also supply furniture from another family company, Domaine.” She says, smiling, “Our companies work easily and seamlessly together to provide total solutions for clients”. Updated by regular participation in Italian design expos and armed with interior design courses from London under her belt, Aalia fell into the design side of projects with ease. “But running my team of installation workers was hard work.” She says. “So many moving parts so many things that could go wrong. This was my greatest challenge.”
“My work philosophy is simple, it is client driven” she explains, “each project unique, every space planned around creating themes that reflect the lifestyle and values of my clients”. This is in contrast to an industry which is ‘designer driven’ and every architect or interior designer has their own signature look. “Many of my clients complain that their architects or designers bypass their suggestions and project their own tastes and preferences on their homes”. Our concept is to provide a truly interactive design experience to the client.
Earlier this year, SPACES was appointed as the design consultant for architectural finishes for the prestigious Emaar Reef Towers Project in Crescent Bay Karachi by the contractor ACL. The SPACES team quickly expanded its skill set to include the multidisciplinary needs of the new project. “It is an exciting development and it is great to work within a corporate environment again, I love the learning and new challenges of dealing with a project of this nature.”
Role Models? “I love art and architecture, beautiful homes and creative interiors. Some of my role models include Frank Lloyd Wright and Zaha Hadid. They made the impossible, possible”. “Closer to home,” she adds “I love the classic simplicity of Habib Fida Ali, the creativeness of Naheed and the innovation and execution abilities of the Najmi Belgrami team. And of course, as artists go, who doesn’t love Amin Gulgee and his brilliant work with metals. We have wonderful talent here in Pakistan!”
Aalia’s Instagram carries the tag line #beautifulthings. So what is her advice for people decorating their homes? “Always remember that symmetry is beauty but perfection is not. Create balance with your architecture and enhance with feature walls, accessories and offsets. Plants and flowers create depth and character in the home. Finally, express yourself and your personality in the small details. In the words of Coco Chanel, an interior is the natural projection of soul. And everyone’s soul is beautiful.
Interviewed by: Ambreen Saleh